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Why are Swiss train passes so expensive?

Why are Swiss train passes so expensive?
Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

Travel on Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is costlier on average than in most European countries. Why is it so?


This question comes to mind as the new SBB timetable for 2022 is coming into effect on December 12th.

And it is even more pertinent as neighbouring Austria has recently introduced a travel pass that is three times cheaper than its Swiss equivalent. It will cost 1,095 euros (1,140 francs) per year.

In Switzerland, an annual pass for second class costs 3'860 francs for people over 26 years of age, and about 1,000 francs less for those between 16 and 26.

Apart from the fact that almost everything in Switzerland is more expensive, there is another reason why you pay more for a season ticket here than in Austria and almost anywhere else in Europe.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

While the name “Swiss federal railways” may suggest that SBB is totally government-owned, it is not that case. 


In fact, there are other, private entities, involved in the process.

SwissPass Alliance, an umbrella group for 250 companies and 17 fare communities, has been determining ticket and season ticket prices for Switzerland’s public transportation system  since January 2020.

A sample pass. Image by SwissPass Alliance

“If we want to have a season ticket like the one in Austria, we must compensate the entire SwissPass Alliance, and not only SBB, and that is complicated ", Matthias Finger, public transportation expert and professor emeritus in network industries management at the Federal Polytechnic Institute told RTS broadcaster.

Also, Switzerland’s train fares can’t be compared to Austria’s, according to SwissPass director Helmut Eichorn.

“Our rail network is more developed and offers more services and connections than Austria’s”, he said, explaining that this difference is reflected in prices.

Another factor: Switzerland’s cost of living and purchasing power are greater than Austria’s and almost any other country’s as well.

READ MORE: Travel: This interactive map shows direct trains from every Swiss city



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